The operator of Cambodia’s airports said yesterday that the number of air arrivals to the country had bounced back to pre-financial crisis levels, with total passenger traffic for the first six months of this year having surpassed the same period in 2007.
Passenger arrivals for both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap airports in the first six months of this year totaled some 1.8 million passengers, compared to 1.6 million over the same period in 2007, said Norinda Khek, spokesman for Societe Concessionnaire des Aeroports.
“Globally, for the two airports, traffic growth in 2010 had nearly caught up with pre-crisis 2007 levels,” Mr Khek said yesterday.
“We expect 2011 to be aligned with the same trend and for both airports to surpass the 2007 levels.”
As of June, passenger arrivals at Phnom Penh airport had already surpassed the half-yearly 2007 figures, while Siem Reap had not, Mr Khek said, adding that Siem Reap is expected to catch up by year’s end.
The first six months of 2011 saw 912,108 people pass through Phnom Penh airport, compared to 667,680 in 2007. For Siem Reap, that figure was at 896,275 in 2011, compared to 902,219 in 2007.
According to a report on air traffic growth released yesterday by the Center for Asia Pacific Aviation, passenger traffic at Siem Reap and Phnom Penh airports totaled about 3.2 million in 2010.
However, Mr Khek warned that the industry was not yet out of the woods completely, with the high price of fuel among reasons for concern.
“The airport industry is very volatile and we need to remain cautious,” he said by email yesterday. “The increase in fuel price…and the unbalanced global economic recovery (strong in Asia but uncertain in the USA and Europe),” were two reasons for concern he said.
The strong growth in traffic was driven in part by the fact that Air France has, since March, had three direct flights, with a stop in Bangkok, a week between Phnom Penh and Paris, according to the CAPA report.
This made it “easier” for European tourists to get to Cambodia, said Ho Vandy, co-chair of the Government-Private Sector Working Group on Tourism.
Reasons for growth in air traffic also included Cambodia’s “very strong commitment to attract investors, especially airline companies,” according to Mr Vandy. Airport management had also improved as had the quality of service on the Cambodian side, with service now meeting “international criteria,” Mr Vandy said.
But despite developments like these, there is still plenty of room for progress, the CAPA report concluded.
Sihanoukville, which has a dormant airport, has “lots of potential” according to CAPA.
Sihanoukville is an up and coming tourist destination the CAPA report said, suggesting that as development increased on Cambodia’s coast, the beach town was “expected to get the influx of tourism needed to support domestic and international services.”
Bangkok Airways is currently the largest carrier serving Phnom Penh, while Vietnam Airlines is the largest in Siem Reap and Cambodia overall, according to the CAPA report. Low-cost airlines such as AirAsia and Jetstar account for about 28 percent of capacity in Siem Reap.
Christian de Boer, director of sales and marketing at the luxury Hotel de la Paix Angkor in Siem Reap, said that the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008 “was very difficult indeed,” but that things were looking up and the hotel had a high level of occupancy.